Brand expert view – Boots

We recently launched The Most Connected Brands Index to help businesses and brands understand how they are connecting with consumers and provide them with ways to improve. Brigid McMullen, Founder and Managing Director of branding agency The Workroom , helped contribute to the report and reviewed a brand that needs no introduction. The 23rd most connected brand in the UK, Boots:

Walking through Liverpool Street Station daily, I’ve witnessed the upgrade of a shabby but strategically important Boots the Chemist, into the new-look health and beauty model. It’s been enlarged to accommodate a huge range of beauty, fragrance and prestige brands like: Liz Earle, NYX, Sally Hansen and Clinique.

Despite this transformation and what could be thought of as a rather late tapping into the big beauty zeitgeist, I wonder if I rate Boots as a brand?

Boots is an innovative UK heritage brand that we should be proud of. It’s endured, responded to changing economic and social challenges and public health issues and consistently grown since 1849. Founder John Boot laid down its values and belief in ‘affordable health’, which it’s delivered for nearly 200 years. Son Jesse and daughter-in-law Florence built on this, developing new health ranges and providing staff welfare. In 1911 they created the first welfare officer role, prioritising women workers. In 1913 they introduced free evening classes at their 127-acre Nottingham production facility.

Boots pioneered many health products and services we take for granted; the first 24-hr pharmacy in Piccadilly Circus in 1925; the first self-service stores in 1951; the invention of Ibuprofen in 1969; and now providing flu jabs for the NHS as well as aligning on government agendas on DIY health by offering eye, ear and dental care. And don’t forget Meal Deals, Men’s Grooming, Christmas Specials, mobile app and parcel pick-up services.

Boots own beauty brands No 7, 17 and Botanics are UK best sellers. Recent ads ‘Summer like you’re 7’ and ‘Let’s feel good’ tap into the well being vibe as well as a smart nod to diversity and inclusion. Boots is now seen as a ‘retail navigator’ offering informed and impartial advice and has one of the highest numbers of loyalty cardholders of any retailer.

So, as a serial innovator I was expecting Boots to use the upgrade to big-scale beauty offering as an opportunity to flex its pioneer spirit. I was hoping for new thinking in the retail beauty experience, championing diversity, sustainability and accessibility. Instead, it appears to be catching up to cash in, disappointingly providing another ‘vanilla’ experience. Brand relevance is the most important driver of customer loyalty and must be earned and constantly re-earned.

So, yes I’m a Boots brand fan, but I’m still waiting to be wowed by a thoughtful and new way of presenting beauty in retail.

Brigid McMullen, Managing Director, Workroom